New research on Anne Boleyn’s prayer book unveils what happened to it after her death

anne boleyn hever
Ian Bottle / Alamy Stock Photo

Hever Castle has announced new revelations following research into an Anne Boleyn prayer book on display in her childhood home with never before seen names and words hidden in the pages.

Former Hever Castle steward Kate McCaffrey spent a year studying the two prayer books in Hever Castle’s possession and discovered wording in the Book of Hours, using ultraviolet light and photo editing software.

Legend has it that Anne handed the book to one of her ladies on the day of her execution. Kate discovered three family names written in the book; Gage, West, and Shirley. These three names centre around a fourth, the Guildford family of Cranbrook. Her research uncovered that the book was passed from female to female of families local to the Boleyn family, but also connected to them by kin.

She explained: It is clear that this book was passed between a network of trusted connections, from daughter to mother, from sister to niece. If the book had fallen into other hands, questions almost certainly would have been raised over the remaining presence of Anne’s signature. Instead, the book was passed carefully between a group of primarily women who were both entrusted to guard Anne’s note and encouraged to add their own.

“In a world with very limited opportunities for women to engage with religion and literature, the simple act of marking this Hours and keeping the secret of its most famous user, was one small way to generate a sense of community and expression.”

She added: “It was incredibly exciting and surreal to uncover these erased inscriptions, and it has been an absolute privilege to restore the names of their authors and recover their stories. What is perhaps most remarkable is that these inscriptions have been unknown and unstudied for so long.”

Dr David Rundle, Kate’s supervisor said: “It is every graduate student’s dream to uncover previously hidden information about a well-known historical figure. Kate’s energy and enterprise have allowed her to do just that, even in the depths of the pandemic when libraries were out of all researchers’ reach. What she has discovered has potentially highly significant implications for our understanding of Anne Boleyn and her posthumous reputation.”

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My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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